Just Jimmy

There’s more to TV’s favourite farmer than meets the eye

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

YOU may know a few things about Jimmy Do­herty. He’s an Es­sex boy, he’s a pig farmer, he’s Jamie Oliver’s best mate, he presents Food Un­wrapped (among many other TV shows) and he’s pas­sion­ate about food and farm­ing. But did you know he had a de­gree in zo­ol­ogy and a PhD in en­to­mol­ogy, the study of in­sects? “As a child I was ob­sessed with na­ture and wildlife, like Ger­ald Dur­rell! I had ter­rap­ins, fer­rets, snakes… I’ve al­ways been into na­ture. I have a big love for tra­di­tional breeds of live­stock and I kept chick­ens when I was nine,” he smiles.

When Jamie went to cater­ing col­lege, Jimmy hit the books, but missed con­tact with an­i­mals. “My PhD took me away from the vis­ceral el­e­ment of na­ture and I was keen to get back in to the soil. Rare breeds and pigs ex­cite me, so I de­cided to train as a pig farmer in 2002.” A year later Jimmy’s

Farm broad­cast and he be­came a house­hold name. “You can do a lot with pigs – sausages, ba­con, ham – but since then we’ve ex­panded to in­clude seven breeds of pigs, six of cat­tle, sheep and 8,000 tur­keys. It’s a con­tem­po­rary mixed farm with tra­di­tion run­ning through it.” Talk­ing to Jimmy, you can’t help but be en­thused by his pas­sion for farm­ing.

“I’m pres­i­dent of the Rare Breeds Sur­vival Trust and I like vis­i­tors to the farm to un­der­stand about the di­ver­sity of the in­dus­try and how it sup­ports na­ture. We also have a farm park with a zoo li­cence; we have trop­i­cal but­ter­flies, meerkats, rep­tiles and free-fly­ing birds.”

Get­ting vis­i­tors to con­nect with farm­ing is top of Jimmy’s agenda. “A healthy rich en­vi­ron­ment cre­ates healthy rich food. After hand, foot and mouth dis­ease and BSE (mad cow dis­ease), there was a dis­con­nect from farm­ing and peo­ple were sus­pi­cious. Ev­ery­thing you read about farm­ing was an ‘ex­posé’. But farmers look after our land­scape, such as the foot­paths and hedges; the coun­try­side is a cul­ti­vated gar­den farmers man­age. Farmers are ex­perts in an­i­mal wel­fare, vet­eri­nary science, they have to be chemists and bi­ol­o­gists; it’s a di­verse job! One week you may be cre­at­ing a pest con­trol so­lu­tion us­ing wasps, on another you may be con­sid­er­ing an en­gi­neer­ing con­cept for greener trac­tors. Whilst the job may ap­pear ‘hard’ to some peo­ple – with the el­e­ments and long hours – there are many dif­fer­ent as­pects to farm­ing, from fish farmers to arable farmers, so there are choices. And you are blessed with wit­ness­ing the sea­sons, birthing an­i­mals, watch­ing barn owls hunt­ing... I feel so re­warded.”

Com­bin­ing the farm’s needs and a globe-trot­ting TV ca­reer is com­plex. “I have 40 full-time staff and I couldn’t leave the farm if it wasn’t for my wife, Michaela, who runs it in part­ner­ship with me. I’m very lucky! My three children – Neve, two, Cora, five, and Molly, seven (there’s a fourth on the way in spring) – help get the cows in or watch the meerkats. For them it’s a to­tally nor­mal life. On site we have a butch­ery, a farm park and a shop, as well as our an­nual sum­mer fes­ti­val. If you come in sum­mer 2018, you will have the time of your life! You can walk through the park and woods, meet the keep­ers, the pigs and see ev­ery el­e­ment of the farm in play. There’ll be butch­ers giv­ing demon­stra­tions, chefs cook­ing live, and great mu­sic acts on the main stage as well as smaller, acous­tic groups around. You can go fish­ing, den build­ing, hear

‘I’ve al­ways been into na­ture. I have a big love for tra­di­tional breeds of live­stock and I kept chick­ens at nine’

talks about cat­tle breeds. We started ten years ago and were the first, truly fam­ily-friendly fes­ti­val. It’s to­tally in­clu­sive – we even have a breast­feed­ing area, a child­care site, and af­ford­able camp­ing op­tions.”

De­spite Jimmy’s ob­vi­ous love for Bri­tain and Suf­folk, where his farm is, TV has taken him around the world and he’s been in­spired by other farm­ing sys­tems. “Ice­land and Ethiopia have the best diet of the coun­tries I have vis­ited. In Ice­land, their lambs graze on vol­canic soil and the dairy cat­tle feed on pre­served grass, which is min­eral rich. In Ethiopia they con­sume a lot of leafy greens and whole grains, not much meat, yet these two coun­tries don’t push the en­vi­ron­ment too hard and they pro­vide nu­tri­ent dense food.”

Not one to rest on his lau­rels, Jimmy’s got big plans for 2018. “Our fo­cus is the re­vamped on­line butch­ery. We have Butcher Far­rell of Hong Kong fame with a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion as our res­i­dent butcher (check out his In­sta­gram @butcher­far­rell to get the meat juices flow­ing). We’ll be do­ing demos, classes and re­launch­ing the web­site. High­street butch­ers have so much to of­fer – they can talk you through cuts, slice your steak just how to want it, they’re au­then­tic. There’s no waste, they uti­lize the whole an­i­mal. At our butch­ery vis­i­tors can just turn up – it’s an open house pol­icy.” The TV shows are do­ing bril­liantly and there’s more of the same next year to press the record but­ton for. “Jamie and I will be con­tin­u­ing with another se­ries of Fri­day Night Feast. We loved hav­ing Mark Hamill and Liv Tyler on, but Johnny Ve­gas was a sur­prise – did you know he has a teapot in the V&A?” And on that, Jimmy has to go, but his part­ing com­ment says it all – a fam­ily man with a pas­sion for the land, an­i­mals and peo­ple, with a sprin­kling of fame on the side, but al­ways kept firmly on the side. www.jim­mys­farm.com

Left and right: The restau­rant at Jimmy’s Farm

Above: Jimmy Do­herty on his Suf­folk farm

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